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Library Accessibility Guide: Individuals with Disabilities

Library Acquisitions

Acquisition units purchase all formats of monographs, serials, databases, media, software, IT equipment, furniture and is involved in the acquisitions of various electronic resources. The question remains how this unit could assure materials were consistently ADA compliant prior to purchasing? Recommended is the California State University's website on accessible procurement procedures for information technology resources and services.

The Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights, released an FAQ in May 2011 to emphasize that the prohibition against the purchase of inaccessible technology also applied to libraries and K-12 schools. In a May 2013 letter, the Department of Education reaffirmed its position that a school would be in violation of federal law if it adopted non-accessible technology.

Request for Proposals

During the procurement process a library can also request a response regarding the product's ability to meet accessibility needs in a Request For Proposals (RFP's), vendor bids to procure a services through their product. RFP’s are commonplace for libraries when securing expensive purchases with vendors that require the best value with the most service.

Library Policy Statements

Library policies, in particular collection development policies, are including statements about accessibility and inclusion at the library. An example is below:

The College of Staten Island Library is committed to complying with relevant ADA standards, Section 504, Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in the selection, maintenance, and access to its collections. In the development and/or the procurement of online resources, the library will consider resources that are accessible and useable to all. Collection development decision-making will also consider product’s usability with assistive technology, accessible alternatives, and accessibility documentation from vendors.

Library Web Site Policy Statements regarding accessibility and design guidelines are also important to a library. An example of a statement is from the University Library at California State University Long Beach.  

Quick Guide to VPAT's

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) was originally required by the federal government to enable the comparison of how vendor products and services conform to Section 508, is now being used by libraries to support accessibility.There are three different forms of VPAT's 2.0 developed by the GSA and  the latest version VPAT 2.1® developed by the ITI, based on revised 508 Standards beginning on January 18, 2018. A Government Product Accessibility Template (GPAT) reflects specifically the government accessibility requirements for the type of electronic resource an agency intends to buy, that can be given to a vendor.

Although VPAT statements can be a helpful start when evaluating e-resources for their accessibility features, however, they can be difficult to understand and may not always be reliable. A VPAT statement should not preclude usability testing when evaluating e-resources. California State LA provides training materials about evaluating VPAT's. If a product fails the VPAT requirements, then consider drawing-up an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP). These documents will explore whether a product can be fixed by the vendor or whether there are any workarounds. Review California State's University interactive guide to understanding all sections of a VPAT.

Video Purchasing Requirements

W3C has guidelines to following regarding Multimedia Accessibility:

  • Closed Captioning (audio-only recordings do not require captions)
  • Transcripts Provided/ Interactive
  • Text to Voice
  • Audio Descriptions

Accessibility and E-Readers

There have been challenges to implementing e-readers in academic libraries due to the failure of many of these devices being accessible. In 2010, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the US Departments of Justice and Education entered into settlement agreements and lawsuits regarding e-readers that did not provide accessibility features, i.e, Kindle DX. Since the lawsuit, the Kindle Fire tablets now come with accessibility features such as a screen reader, Braille support, screen magnifier, contrast options, and closed captioning.

Apple devices are commonly recommended due to their built-in accessibility features such as VoiceOver, compatibility with Braille devices, app for Daisy books and talking touch screens. Despite the advancement of these devices, the issue remains whether all e-books or e-book file formats, e.g., PDF's, can be read by the software in these devices. E-Pub and DRM free file formats or HTML coding is preferred.